Friday, July 31, 2009

August Header Up Early

I'm leaving on a jet plane tonight, so I posted my new August header early. Of course, if you're reading this after the end of the day on Friday, please disregard. The rumor of an early new header is just that - a rumor, and you can no longer prove it. Friday's "real" post is just below. See you next week, when it will most certainly be August!

Onion Rings: A Cooking Basic

One of S's favorite foods is onion rings. He loves them. If we go to a restaurant that serves them, he usually orders some. And, we have some favorites around these parts - Peggy Sue's has some delicious ones. So does The Porch. We had some fabulous ones in Georgetown last May, at this place, too. And, while we're on the general Austin area, we missed eating some rings at Hut's, but they are definitely up there as some of our favorites. As you know, eating is a favorite past time here at Ate Up Amateur. But I digress...back to today's topic.

So, after I concocted a Spicy Fried Chicken recipe that he wouldn't touch, he got the idea that we could make some onion rings at home. He mentioned it a couple of times. I said, "Yeah, we'll do that one day." Then, we went to this place last weekend and S bought two vidalia onion rings. After the purchase, S said we needed to use at least one of those onions to make some onion rings. OK, I said. OK.

Yes, that pad is left over from my teaching days...
surely given to me by one sharp student.

S searched the Internet for a recipe he wanted to try. He couldn't decide on one. So, I made one up. And, here's the real kicker - I measured out the ingredients AND I wrote them down. I know, amazing. Truly amazing. So, here is our made up recipe for onion rings that turned out to be pretty darn tasty.

The Ingredients, sans onions.

S cut up the onion - we only did one onion.
The batter would have been enough for two or maybe even three.

One onion is a lot o' rings, though - more than enough for us, anyway.

S's artistic shot

I should say, and you'll be able to tell because my fat hands are BOTH sometimes in the photo, that S helped with the photographing. This was, all around, a group effort. That there, up above, is S's attempt at an "artsy" shot - he held one ring up and shot through it. Nice idea, but I'm not sure it worked...

Here we go with the fat hands.
Measure out the flour.

And the cornmeal - again, we used white cornmeal.
It's what we have in the kitchen.

Go ahead and put in the baking powder and spices.

Feel free to put in more cayenne if you want them to be spicy. This is not enough cayenne to get that job done - this amount is just for taste.

Mix up the dry ingredients and make a little well in the middle.

Then get out the buttermilk. It seems to be our favorite ingredient, doesn't it. I also want to talk about the three items behind the buttermilk that sit to the left of my sink. Yes, they are all blurry in this photo - use your imagination! The thing with the black frame around it is a photo of a sign my friend The Cheese Fry gave me a million moons ago. It says "Amy's Restaurant - Fast Food with a Flair." It belongs in my kitchen. When I opened it, I thought the sign said, "Chuy's restaurant." I said, "Oh Chuy's - thanks!" He said, "What? Chuy's? No - it says Amy's!" "Ohhh," I said. Then he said, "Why would I give you a photo of a Chuy's sign?"

I said, "I dunno - I was being nice. But, Amy's - Amy's it makes more sense." I'm sometimes a little dense. Just sometimes. Ahem. Anyway, I like it in my kitchen. To the left and behind that is a ceramic bear that says, "May all your teddy bears be fuzzy and your jelly beans not." I am 98% sure my mom gave us that right after we were married. You see, I am (and was even more then) a pretty big fan of the teddy bear. And, my husband is a big fan of the jelly bean. So she thought it was a apropos for us. I've had it in my kitchen ever since.

And, the item to the right and behind the photo - that is a ceramic little ditty that I bought for myself. It says, "Miracles Happen Everyday." I needed to be reminded of that at the time in my life when I bought it because I felt I really needed a miracle. Never got the miracle, but I realize I don't need that miracle because I've had many others, and I still think it's a beautiful little plaque and sentiment. So, they hang out there to the left of my sink. Now, back to the recipe.

Get a bowl for the wet ingredients - I should say I am generally a fan of just mixing it all together, but since we were experimenting, I did it by the book. I put the buttermilk and egg in a separate bowl.

Then I whisked them together. Briefly.

Then Ellie stopped by to say, "Whassup?"

Then, incorporate the wet mixture into the dry mixture.

And stir.

Until it looks like this - only not this yellow.
Not sure why this photo is that yellow...
but I'm too lazy to open the software to fix it.

Dip the onions in the batter.

Meanwhile, you got your skillet out and heated a good bit of oil up on medium heat. And, then you threw in some batter to see if it was hot. When it was, you proceeded to add battered onion rings. I used cast iron this time, since Deanna mentioned it after the fried chicken post. It did keep the oil more consistently hot - and hotter in general, I would say, at lower settings.

Anyway, keep battering up the onions...

...and frying them up in the pan...see that oil pop!

Take them out and let them drain on a paper towel briefly.

Then, to keep them all warm for eating all together, we put them in the oven on a pan on the "warm and hold" setting. If you don't have a "warm and hold setting" just choose something like 275 or 300 and keep them warm this way.

Then, voila! A plate of scrumptious fried goodness.

The condiments were ready.

We dove right in.

And they were fabulous! With or without ketchup!

So, there you have it - some homemade onion rings of the ATE UP variety. Here's the recipe:

2 cups flour
1/2 cup cornmeal
2 tsp baking powder
1 tsp garlic powder
1 tsp salt
1/2 tsp pepper
1/4 tsp cayenne pepper
1/4 tsp chili powder
2 cups buttermilk
1 egg
2 onions
cooking oil

Combine dry ingredients in one bowl and set aside. Combine wet ingredients in another bowl and then incorporate the wet ingredients into the dry ingredients. Stir until the batter is smooth and consistent throughout.

Cut up onion into rings of a desired thickness. Warm cooking oil (about 1/4 to 1/3 inch of oil) in a large frying pan. Dip onion into batter and then into hot oil. Flip to the other side so evenly browned. Remove from oil and dry on paper towel. To keep all warm until all are cooked, store finished rings on a cookie sheet in a barely warmed oven. Serve with salt and pepper to taste and ketchup, if desired.

To wrap up the week - I went to hand deliver the photos - no humans were around. So, I ended up mailing them overnight to arrive today. Hope that goes alright. I'm sure it will.

Just so you know I don't cook or eat just fried food, I cooked this recipe last night as a side dish. It was DELICIOUS. I'd serve it to company. I highly recommend it. Cook it - with some locally grown in-season zucchini - tonight!

We're off on our vacation tonight - to cheap ticket city winner Minneapolis and then on to Wisconsin. We'll arrive around midnight and then tomorrow we'll be off on our adventure. Who knows where it'll take us exactly. I'll tell you all about it here, internet connection willing. Cheryl and Sam and my good friend Karen will be on dog and cat duty. They are wonderful people for taking care of our sweet babies while we're gone. A big THANK YOU to them!

Hope you are off onto your own big adventure this weekend. Stay cool and dry, and I'll see you here again next week. Thanks for stopping by.

Thursday, July 30, 2009

Drumroll please...

Come on people, I might as well make it seem like they won SOMETHING, you know, so at least they win SOMEWHERE! Cut me some slack. This was a DIFFICULT process for me - I clearly need a life, you know, so simmer down. Here's your answer. The winners of which photos to enter into this year's State Fair of Texas contest. That answer is indeed, in fact, in total, found in this post.

I should mention also, I've taken some rather hideous photos to post along with the description of the printed know, just to even things out a bit. Don't want to go all hoity-toity on you or anything. Ahem.

Oh, and I must mention today is my Unk's birthday. Happy Birthday to him! Incidentally, after the one year anniversary of this blog, I'm going to stop the birthday stuff, though, because I've been horribly uneven about it since I have no method I'm following to remember all the birthdays of the people important to me. It's more of a "if I remember it while I'm typing the blog" sort of thing. Shoddy at best. Gonna stop doing it. But, today, HAPPY BIRTHDAY to my Unk. I love him very much and hope he has a great day!

So, the five the Ate Up Amateur printed were the gate to the Texas sky, the butterfly on Texas thistle, the sunflower with bee, bovine baptism I, and the close-up rubber duckies.

I did not print the barn because I could not enter two into the Texas Rural Scenes category, and I was pretty sure I'd be entering some bovine. But I love the barn. I did not print the fall leaves at White Rock Lake because I decided there could potentially be hundreds of fall foliage photos and that would not stand out. But I love the leaves. And, I mentioned, even though the Ferris wheel was most mentioned, I did not print it as I felt it would be an overdone subject in this competition specifically. But I love the Ferris wheel - it was raining that day and it was a darn hard photo to get, so I'm just glad I got it. Similarly, I did not print the lone bull as I felt it was a more "ordinary" shot, available to many photographers. But I love the lone bull. And that's no bull. Heh heh. Never gets old to me. I bet you never guessed that.

After having to be cropped - digital images are wider than conventional sizing, so every image had to be cropped, and the first set of prints didn't save my cropping, so they printed them again for me - and, after being printed, I knew they would look different. Due to the width constraints, the gate to the Texas sky took a hit. Not as striking without both anchor sides. But, otherwise the cropping wasn't too detrimental. The flower had less space around it, the cow on the far right of the photo disappeared at the baptism, the duckies to the far left are gone now, and the edges of the butterfly photo came off easily. I could have chosen to print a smaller photo, just on an 11 x 14 mount, and matted it. Perhaps, next year, when I can plan ahead and not do all of this at the last minute, I will do that.

We - S and I, and even his parents who stopped by to help with this ridiculously hard and long decision - we sat and stared at them. We ruminated. Moved them around. Stared at them some more. Looked at the categories. Held them up to different light.

And then, we decided. After, as you most CERTAINLY know by now, after much deliberation and emotional collateral spent, we decided on two STINKING photos to enter into the contest.

Bovine Baptism I and the rubber duckies, which I titled, "Bobbing Along at the Beautiful State Fair of Texas." I know. Lame name. I entered the bovines into the "Texas Rural/Scenes" category and the duckies in the "State Fair" category. I chose these because I thought they were both relatively unique subjects and fit the categories very well.

I could have gone in really any direction, but at the end of the angst, that was the decision. Sorry if your favorite didn't make the cut. It doesn't mean I didn't appreciate your feedback any less. I didn't. I loved every last second of feedback I got. It was FABULOUS to get so many opinions and points of view. I'm mourning their loss right on with you...I mean, we haven't even mentioned my dismay that the big bug, sweet Ellie or the holiday lights didn't even make it to day two! And, not to mention I have about as much of a chance of winning this silly contest as I do winning the lottery.

There's the decision. I'm going to walk them in today. No one will ever know if it's the right decision. But, the good thing is, no one will die. No one will even miss a beat. No wars will be started. Heck, no recessions will be lifted. It's no big deal at all. And now it's done.

And, of course, if anything comes of it, you'll hear about it here. You know I will certainly let you know. See you tomorrow.

Wednesday, July 29, 2009

Look Who Stopped By

I was walking up the front steps of our house last night, returning home from work. And, lo and behold, there was an old friend! A black swallowtail butterfly, checking out the lantana on my porch. So, I quickly commandeered the purse camera from out of the purse and snapped a few photos of her visit before she flew on to someone else's yard for the next welcoming celebration.

Look! There she is!
(Pay no attention to the grimy brick below the beautiful lantana.)

Clearly, she was just there, in this photo.
But I missed her. Ahem.

She seemed to really like the flowers, each one, briefly.

It was a great ending to my workday and start to the evening!

Do you think it's the same one that's in THAT photo?
I'm just kidding, people.

Then, she was off as quick as she came. Busy girl.

Hope she brightened your morning/afternoon/evening/whenever you're reading this as she did my moment with her. And, yay for the purse camera! It rocked! Those photos are unedited, and sister, it did a pretty good job, no?

I bet you're wondering which ones I picked for the contest...I can't answer that right now. Because I really haven't completely decided. I decided to print five of them to see if I could decide after seeing them in print, mounted, at the desired size. I dropped off the files last night for processing locally. Normally, I'd use an online printer like Color, Inc. (my personal favorite) or MPix. But, I went to the local printer last night. Because I need them, mounted and delivered, by Friday. Cough!!! Expensive!!! Procrastination hurts, people! I'm not talking just a little mark-up - to support a local business, I can handle a little. I'm talking about FIVE TIMES as much. Seriously. I don't know how they stay in business. No, wait a minute, I just paid their ridiculous prices, so maybe they thrive on procrastination. Maybe that's it.

I pick them up at lunch today. Then, I'll decide. I'm not even going to tell you which ones I printed. Not because I'm being obtuse or difficult.

Because I can't remember.

I narrowed it down to seven that all got several votes and then ruminated at the store. And, at this moment, can't remember what I decided. I do know I decided against the Ferris wheel, even though it was a huge favorite, because there will be hundreds of Ferris wheel entries. (if you want a print of the Ferris wheel, I can order you a sweet one from Color, Inc! - you cover cost and shipping and I'll do it!) But other than that, I really can't say!

But I will let you know. I promise. Because you're the best blog readers anywhere and I SO appreciate your input. You saved me from myself and got me moving in the right direction. And for that, I'm eternally grateful. You're the best. I love ya. Group hug, OK? ;-)

See you tomorrow.

Tuesday, July 28, 2009


So, I know by posting about this yet another day I am taking my neurosis via this blog to a whole new level. Sorry about that. I know I should just pick two FREAKING photos and send them off to the fair. I mean, good God, this is not a life or death thing. But, I'm obsessing. I can't decide. It's spiraling out of control.

Forget the categories - here are the "finalists". I need to choose two of these...if you have any further pearls of wisdom - and I am really looking for pearls of wisdom (besides, "Amy, they make a pill for that") - please leave them for me. And I promise I'll make a decision in the next 24 hours. I promise.

And, thank you to those of you who commented here on Ate Up Amateur, on Facebook, in person, or emailed me. (I actually put just these photos in an album on Facebook last night and got TONS of responses. I guess Facebook gets more traffic than this here blog. You think? Heh heh.) I appreciate your replies very much. Can you imagine the neurosis had you not stepped in this far? Really. Really.

Oh, and thank you Dad, for stating you felt none of them were my best work. Thanks. I love ya. Really. Really. :-)

So, here we go - finalists from yesterday and two mentioned that were not previously listed. In no particular order. Pick one. Or two. Thank you. And tell me about it. Send a homing pigeon if you wanna - whatever works. Help me out of my self-induced indecision.

This one and the next are new today based on your feedback.
This one is a Facebook favorite.

Of the two I like this one, but the fence is visible in the foreground.
Does that matter?

Old Barn

Texas Star on a Cloudy Day

Gate to the Texas Sky

Lone Bull
And that Ain't No Bull
OK, it's old now. I know that. It's alright. I own the blog!!!

Close-up Sunflower...I think it was this one people liked.

Butterfly on Texas thistle

Fall Colors on White Rock Lake

Close-in ducks. Although some of you just said ducks.
So maybe you meant the other one.

We're down to 10 with the two new ones. I can turn in 20% of these - look how I'm using those higher math skills! OK, thanks again for your help one more day. I appreciate it! See you tomorrow, neurosis back down to a normal level.